Switching to gas

My just-out-of-warranty electric cooktop died recently, and my handyman came up with the idea that it was feasible to replace it with a gas cooktop. Today, the project was finished up, and I now have this dandy cooktop in my kitchen. The only problem is that I’ve never cooked on gas before (other than on a propane grill).

I’m reasonably handy in the kitchen and am looking forward to far better temperature control with the gas unit, but I was wondering if there is anything that I should know or look out for as a refugee from electric cooktops — either the finer points of getting the most out of it, or “everybody knows that you should/shouldn’t do this with gas” type of things. Thanks!

You’ve probably figured out that residual heat isn’t going to be as useful with gas. I knew that, but I still kept turning the burner off too early when I switched from electric to gas.

The other thing I kept doing was dialing the gas too high, especially on my spider (cast iron frying pan). I think this was because electric takes time to ramp up, and gas is just there.

A gas burner is more flexible for things like charring the skins of peppers and finishing chapatis. You lay something directly on an electric burner, and you get a burned, stinking mess. That isn’t necessarily the case with gas.
posted by QIbHom at 1:12 PM on October 6, 2006

I love gas for its instant response but I once had a really good-quality electric stove and found that it had a greater temperature range – I could get both lower and higher heat. I could incubate yogurt on the low setting and smoke peanut oil on the high setting, neither of which are possible on my current (semi-crappy) gas stove.

You might need to adjust your approach with gas (like use a double boiler for really low heat), but you’ll get used to it. Another benefit is that you can see how high your heat is – just bend down and peer at the flame under the pot. No need to rely on what the knob reads.

Seconding QIbHom about using a gas burner as an impromptu grill – try toasting tortillas or bread that way.

Oh, and if the maximum heat output is too wimpy for you, ask the gas company if they can come fiddle with the gas flow regulator in your stove. (If you’re really handy you can probably figure it out yourself but it would undoubtedly break every code and regulation in the book. That being said, I still haven’t blown myself up.)
posted by Quietgal at 1:33 PM on October 6, 2006

Two things that I adore gas for (other than instant-off for boiling water) are fine temperature control for candy-making (it can be seriously difficult to keep everything at the right temperature when you have to move it from burner to burner) and heat volume output for stir- and deep-frying — pots and pans won’t cool down like they do on electric when you drop food in (to a point). This is particularly great for deep-frying because not only do you have finer temperature control, you can fry much faster because you can do more at once without cooling the oil.

Caveat: Hot oil is much more dangerous on a gas stove because the open flame is much more likely to ignite it than on an electric. Keep an appropriate fire extinguisher handy at all times.
posted by j.edwards at 1:37 PM on October 6, 2006

I suppose there isn’t too much to mention, but if you must…

Do not try to heat your house with this. These produce carbon monoxide, not enough to bother over with cooking, but don’t try to heat your house with this.

Make sure the burners light when you start your cooking. You don’t want unburned gas escaping into your living space. Also it’s good to familiarize yourself with the emergency shut off. Each gas appliance should have one.
posted by kc0dxh at 1:53 PM on October 6, 2006

If you need really low heat and even low is too high, put your pan inside a larger pan. I keep a crappy scratched old nonstick pan around for this kind of thing.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:07 PM on October 6, 2006

Gas rules. That said, the fire danger is greater (don’t leave oven mitts or paper products close to the flames; keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen; don’t leave burners going without a pot or pan on top of them), and there’s a small danger that the pilot light will go out and you won’t notice. So just be scrupulous about being sure the flame comes on when you turn on a burner, and that you turn the burners off completely when you turn them off.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:27 PM on October 6, 2006

the NGP has a 15000 BTU burner which is probably much much more than your old electric. Good for getting a stock-pot to boil or a heavy cast-iron pan up to heat but the only reason I can think to keep it at max would be if you are doing a lot of deep-frying.

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